I rolled bundles of hay across the slope to make haycocks to keep the rain off and allow the grasses to continue drying. For those that know hay, it’s not really. It’s fibrous weedy stuff from species-rich grassland we optimistically call the Orchard Meadow, left too long and cut now with a scythe. But it will make an excellent mulch for fruit trees and the grass needs cutting ready for tree-planting later in the year.
The children watched the bundles roll over, alert for short-tailed voles. I had spotted one as I’d rolled and managed to catch the snub-nosed little creature in my hands. It peeked out at the children from beneath my fingers, whiskers twitching, one bright eye watching us. After much delight, we released it into one of the newly made haycocks. The kids spotted several more but only Finch was quick enough to catch one, and then only for a few seconds before it scurried out of his hands and away into the grass.
Short-tailed voles feel like a good sign, an important part of a living habitat. Though dear things, they are also important food sources for so many other creatures we love. Coming back through the lanes, we spotted a barn owl swooping low.
Way back in January last year, I wrote here: ‘[We] have other dreams we want to pursue, dreams and hopes that slipped in under the door like the rays of sun on the dawn of the first day of Spring, unexpectedly bright, and unexpectedly right.’
Dreams are strange, slippery things. The dreams I was talking about were old ones really, dreams we had dreamed as young people when we barely knew ourselves and had only the smallest idea of the limitations and restrictions of the world. But they resurfaced and we started to wonder, what if?
And so in June, we became custodians of a piece of land: woodland, coppice, pasture, meadow and stream. Nature, climate and family are some of the words that best encapsulate what this is about for us.
No more voles to find, the children clambered through the dark limbs of a field-edge goat willow and we put the kettle on the fire to make tea.